My Dad’s Garlic Bread Recipe

My dad's garlic bread recipe - garlic, lots of butter, chives, and lemon zest slathered on a wide baguette. A garlic-studded, golden crusted masterpiece.

My Dad’s Garlic Bread

Garlic bread is one of my dad's specialties. But before we get into the details, let me back up a bit and start by saying that I was one of the fortunate kids growing up - really lucky. My dad cooked dinner for us nearly every night when he got home from work - AND he loved to do the dishes (a trait that clearly skips a generation). Well into my teen years friends tolerated slightly less liberal curfews at the Swanson household in exchange for the payoff the next morning - my dad's Saturday standard consisting of homemade biscuits, eggs, bacon, and freshly squeezed orange juice. The only problem my sister and I could identify was the early hour it was served. He would plate up at 8 a.m. laughing as he bellowed "up all night, up all day!"

I called my dad yesterday and asked him about his garlic bread. Everyone loves these garlic-studded, golden-crusted masterpieces and he brings baskets brimming with slices to lots of 'events' - office parties, picnics, parades, bingo night (somehow he ended up being a caller?). My dad is a chronic volunteer, so there are lots of opportunities for him to display his garlic bread-making prowess. I've had it a thousand times, but never paid much attention to his technique, so today was the day.

What follows is more of a technique than an actual recipe. The amount of garlic you'll end up using will correspond with the size of your bread loaf. My dad likes to use those giant supermarket 'artisan' bread loaves. I suspect it is because the larger loaves have more of the white bread 'flesh' enabling the absorption of lots and lots of garlic infused butter. I opted for a wide/tall french baguette from the bakery up the street from my house. You don't want to go with too narrow a baguette or you wind up with the wrong ratio of soft, garlic-buttery insides to crust. The baguettes with more body stay nice and moist throughout the baking and broiling. It's actually hard to go wrong, I mean this is garlic bread we are talking about - but the kind of bread you choose will define your final outcome.

I couldn't help leaving my little mark (and a bit of visual flair) on the recipe, so I added lots of lemon zest and chopped chives.

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My Dad's Garlic Bread

The size of your baguette will determine how much butter and garlic you'll use. My dad uses roughly one head of garlic for each stick of butter.

1 loaf artisan French bread or wide baguette
1 - 2 heads of garlic
1 - 2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 bunch of chives (optional)
zest of one lemon (optional)

As told to me by my father. Slice that loaf of bread right up the middle so you have two halves (he uses his serrated knife for this). Now set them on their backs, cut side up. Mince the garlic or push it through one of those crushers - either way is fine. Now add it to the butter you should be melting in a small saucepan.

(This is where he got really animated). Now take a basting brush (or any brush for that matter - pastry, etc) and start slathering the garlic butter all across that bread. Really go for it, let it soak in. He then says to me, "heck, sometimes I even pour it on." (At which point I can't help but think that my mom would be mortified). Make sure you get all those garlic chunks evenly distributed. Now sometimes my dad makes a garlic bread in advance and freezes it (don't ask). If you are going to freeze the bread for later, this is when you do it - you don't want to bake, then freeze.

He recommends the 'double-bake' as he calls it. This is when you bake at a standard temperature (350 degrees) for 10 to 15 minutes to heat the bread (particularly if it is coming out of the freezer), and then brown it off for color under the broiler for a minute or two.

When the bread is finished broiling let it cool for a minute or two. This is when I sprinkle with the lemon zest and chives (and to be honest, I sprinkle a bit of zest on the bread before it goes in the oven too because I like that roasted lemon flavor alongside the garlic.) Slice and serve.

The short version of this recipe:
Cut, slather, bake, brown, slice.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Your Dad's garlic bread looks awesome! You are lucky to have a dad to cook and clean, I don't have that, but I do have a terrific hubby who does just that, and he makes the garlic bread too, I will surely pass this procedure to him, I can't wait to try it! It always seems better when someone else's does it, although I make a mean garlic bread too!


thank you dearly for sharing this recipe. i hope to make it with my father next time i visit.

Linda, The Village Vegetable

I'm salivating. I had a great garlic bread a couple of weeks ago with vegan margarine, too (Earth Balance, of course), which was great. Okay, now I want this for lunch!


Great photo.


Laughing, for sure but it's clear that passion for food is inherited! I'm also wondering if the bread, um, really makes that much difference when you're pouring on a cup of butter?! No matter, I'll take your word for it :-)


This is similar to my own recipe, although I have never tried melting the butter. I allow the butter to come to room temperature, mix it with the garlic, and then slather it on the bread. I sprinkle paparika and parmesan on top, then also use a bake and broil technique.


I like to add parmesan cheese. Also, you might try metling butter in a large saute pan (oven proof), adding garlic, and then adding bread (cut side down) to the pan. Saute for a few minutes, then turn right side up and put in the oven. Finish up under the broiler.


I have fond memories of coming home when I was young to the smell of garlic bread in the oven. It's a simple dish that opens the eyes of a young person to the great world of food.


I love this Heidi, the casual and animated re-telling, the sense of your history here. In a way, these are always my favorite recipes.


Finally someone who uses as much garlic and butter as my family! You can't be shy with either! Delicious!


This is such a beautiful blog! The photo of the garlic bread is wonderful and is making me very hungry!


1 - 2 heads of garlic and 1 - 2 sticks of unsalted butter -- with ingredients like that how could you go wrong? Thanks!


How funny. My dad also did the cooking when I was a kid and made awesome garlic bread too!


I ADORE garlic bread and this looks especially yummy!


Hey Heidi! Lovely photo and story. My dad was a soda jerk when he lived in the Bronx many years ago. He learned to make all the "diner" favorites, so we grew up eating tuna melts and meatloaf. He also was a master at lox, eggs and onions. Your dad's garlic bread is very similar to my recipe/technique. I also melt the butter and use a silicone brush to spread it on the bread (favoring whole grains these days). I also sprinkle oregano, basil, and freshly ground sea salt and pepper to mine before I bake it, then toast it in the toaster oven. Sometimes when I'm feeling really indulgent, I'll sprinkle a nice Italian cheese on top of the garlic bread, close the two halves, wrap the whole thing in foil and bake it until the cheese melts. Thanks for your beautiful blog. Best, Deb


Beautifully written, great food

YAHTI chef

I love garlic bread and this recipe sounds wonderful. But even more wonderful is the telling. It takes me way back and reminds me of my own stories, although truth be told, my father was not the cook yours is. That said, he loved my mother's version which is very similar to your dad's. I, on the other hand, can't wait to add some lemon zest to mine. Thanks for sharing.


Your dad is has it right with the soaking in. The pouring is not a bad idea either. The more butter, the better the browning!!!


The 'method' is great and one I will try (probably tonight)...THOROUGHLY enjoy your writing on the subject....thanks be to Google for the link to your site!


I'm with your dad on the "double-bake" part. Love the addition of the citrus as well.

Susan from Food "Blogga"

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